Testimony of Ryan Lynch
Nassau County Budget Hearing - Government Services Committee
October 7 , 2008
 

Good evening. My name is Ryan Lynch and I am the Senior Planner and Long Island Coordinator of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy organization working for a more environmentally sustainable and equitable transportation system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Tri-State is here, as we are every year, to advocate for increased funding for Long Island Bus and also to urge the County leadership, both the executive and legislative branches, to work together to ensure that a sustainable funding structure for Long Island Bus is developed by the state, Nassau County and the MTA.

While a key objective of the Nassau County Planning Department in the proposed budget is to “…provide support for initiatives that will improve public transit servicesand amenities for Nassau County residents,” the county chooses to continue to shirk its responsibility to the system, even as the demand for better and more efficient transit increases throughout the region.

Ridership on Long Island Bus has grown consistently since fiscal year 2003, and through the first seven months of 2008 (the most recent data available), ridership has been approximately 3.3% higher than the same period in 2007. At this pace 2008 will be the highest-ridership year in the agency’s history.

In response to this growing demand, the County Executive’s proposed 2009 budget contribution of $10.5 million is the same as what was proposed for fiscal years 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005—and is less than half of what it was in 1999. This begs the question, how exactly does the County Executive and the Legislature, in their efforts to attain the objectives set by the County’s planning department, propose to improve the system while keeping its funding stream stagnant as ridership demand increases?

With County Executive Suozzi’s leadership, Nassau County is poised to become a smart-growth pioneer among suburban counties in the region. However 21 st Century smart growth can not truly succeed without a burgeoning transit system. Nassau County’s dedication to environmentally sustainable development will be pointless if it continues to avoid supporting the existing local transit system.

To do this, Nassau County must work with the state and the MTA to find a stable, dedicated funding solution for Long Island Bus, as exists for the LIRR. We have urged this for years, and we repeat that call today. The announcement earlier this year that LI Bus will be absorbed into a regional bus entity run by the MTA only makes this call more urgent. A detailed and sustainable funding structure is needed to ensure that the level of service on LI Bus meets the increasing demand seen over the years, especially since LI Bus serves many of Nassau County’s most transit-dependent residents and workers—the young, the old, and the lower-income.

If Nassau County is not financially able to help riders, you must find other ways to increase funding for the system.

In addition to working with County Executive Suozzi to increase the MTA’s contribution to LI Bus, you must also work to support the LI delegation to Albany in their efforts to secure more state funding for the system.

Nassau County should also reach out to Senators Clinton and Schumer and demand that they begin working to secure federal dollars for new buses. Acquiring capital dollars can take many years to accomplish, so efforts in this regard must begin soon. In addition, you can also work with the Senators to eventually secure federal dollars for operating funds.

Whatever you do, please do something.

It is high time that LI Bus be treated as what it is—a vital backbone for Nassau’s economy and future development, and a necessity for the nearly 33 million people who board it every year.

Thank you.